Do you remember being told to go outside and play as a child? Without realizing it, our parents gave us the greatest gift of all, freedom to experience the great outdoors where our imagination ran wild and our stress and unneeded calories melted away.
Today’s children are held captive by our fears and electronic devices. Spending more than 7 ½ hours a day consuming media, these “digital natives” often spend less than 1 hour a week on unstructured recreation. As a society, we have a moral and ethical obligation to give the natural world back to our children.
Every child needs time in a natural setting. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play as essential to children’s physical and mental health. The worldwide initiative to reconnect children with the natural world is making a difference. The International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2012 recognized “Children have a human right to a connection to the natural world and to a healthy world.”
Recent scientific research identifies strong correlations between experiences in nature and children’s ability to learn and cope. Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening. The National Wildlife Federation notes Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab interviews all candidates about their play experiences as children, because they’ve found a direct correlation between hands-on play and superior problem solving skills.
National Garden Clubs, Inc. encourages you to read and discuss The Frightened Frog with the children in your life. Even better, take them on a quest to find an egg mass, tadpoles, frogs and other amphibians. Become an environmental hero! Sit and listen while enjoying the mystery and magnificence of the natural world with the most important people anywhere, our children.
As parents, grandparents, and educators, we have a pivotal role in the experiences of the future stewards of the natural world. Now is not the time to hesitate, but to leap into action.